“She Cybered for Purpz”: Badge Gear, Loot Collusion and Misogyny

As part of our discussion on Justice Points about women and progression raiding, I made a quip about how Blizzard instituting badge gear and things like LFR and Timeless Isle over the years has eased the vectors of gear acquisition. In doing so, the collateral “damage” was potentially destroying the myth that women gained their hard-won epics through some nefarious means. When I was playing in Burning Crusade, one of the frequent charges for a woman who had a decent set of gear was that she “cybered” for epics. When I later joined a community for women who played WoW (wow_ladies), women both leveling that charge at other women as well as women in the community worried about being accused of it posted regularly. At the time, well before I really got into feminism, it felt like a sensible charge and not like they misogyny-driven urban myth that it really was.

Why was it easy to believe though? First, turn the clock back to Vanilla and Burning Crusade. When people first hit end-game in Vanilla, the only way one could acquire epic gear was slowly as part of a 40-person raid or prohibitively expensive world BOEs. The gist is that even into Burning Crusade, until badge gear was introduced, the only way into epics was via raiding or expensive methods like professions. There was no real alternate way of obtaining gear on par with raid gear. This put a considerable premium on getting into raid teams, especially when you added in things like attunements and several tiers of content. When you have a system that is significantly harder to enter, it allows criticism of those considered “unworthy” of being there. Combine this with the mentality at the time that women were extremely sparse in number and not especially proficient at playing and you can easily see how a known woman decked in purples from raiding could be seen as having gained them in an “illegitimate” way. Keep in mind that nothing about this mindset made any sense as even on my rinky-dink RP server, there were many decently progressed guilds, quite a few that were main-tanked, raid-lead or otherwise kept going by women. But since when has intolerance ever been logical?

A lot of this article is based on things I actually saw or heard from people during my time playing the game. It felt like, back in the day, there was way more emphasis on “drama” which always included women in some way and more often than not, sexually. Did this stuff actually happen? Oh, I’m pretty sure it did occasionally. But I don’t think it became a problem because of those occurrences but mostly that it’s not different than the misogyny that women regularly face outside of the game. When Men’s Right’s Activists talk about the “real power” that women have because they believe the world is oriented around heterosexual men and their desires, it’s not real power. Sexist culture dictates that a woman’s value is in her sexual availability to men. It’s not real power when a woman uses that sexual availability to gain herself a foothold, but it merely turns the system somewhat on its head and you can see the very real backlash when a woman rises above her “place.” This is the larger concept that informs something like women cybering for gear in World of Warcraft. So when certain women on a server get earmarked for having done this or when community sites start linking to high-profile guild drama around a woman and nude pics, this is really what is happening. Myths and rumors arise when people are frightened of something, and the hyper-focus on women “cheating” the system (versus everyone) is because men in were terrified of women somehow carving a path to obtaining gear and being part of high-end guilds that was outside accepted channels. Given that gear was at such a premium, you can see why this became something brought up regularly. It all plays still on the idea that most women could never play well enough to obtain them normally, and therefore didn’t deserve it. So that they would have to use something men couldn’t hope to access (sexuality) in order to get it. (Let’s not talk about how several men have admitted to me, with some chagrin, that they’ve posed as women to access this on occasion.)

Here’s the one gaping flaw in blaming women for using sexuality (or potentially stirring up drama) in order to get gear: why aren’t officers and guildmates accountable for this? Unless you’re using need/greed rolls only, there’s no way someone can get their hands on gear that isn’t turned over to them by someone in your roster. Whether it be a loot council, DKP or anything else that relies on a master looter, your loot still comes out of a raid leader’s or other officer’s hands. If someone is getting handed their gear because of cybering, promises to go on a date or because of their intimate relationship with the officer, that is still on the officer handing out the gear for abusing their position.  No one seems to ever mention that when these scares ever got talked about though. Men are infallible creatures who are just victims of their own sex drives and nothing they do is up for scrutinizing. However, if one of your raiders is turning over gear to someone for any reason, even valid ones, it’s because one of your officers decided on it. This was also the reason I often heard stated for why guilds would explicitly allow no women to join – women caused drama, versus discussing that their own ranks would lose their shit over them. If I had to be entirely honest, I used to think women were shitty for pulling these kinds of antics. Looking back, I can see why it was done though. If guys were such utter shitbags to me except for wanting sexy orc sex out of the deal or wanting to date me because I played WoW, I’d want to get some gear out of the equation too. Dealing with an unfair system requires doing some pretty unfair things, sometimes. Dealing with men who have no problem turning over nude pictures of you because they are mad at you would make me not give a shit about their feelings.

So what does this really have to do with the decline of said misogyny and gear? Is it really because of badge and later on, justice point gear? I don’t think correlation is necessarily causation, as I truly believe that a lot of issues of fairness and sexism have become more and more prominent. It’s slightly harder to be an out-and-out anti-woman person so I think some of the decline in these sorts of anecdotes and general skepticism towards women has been lost in time due to the fact that a lot of us are 9 years older and grew the fuck up. But I think anything that Blizzard has done to destroy some of the barriers to entry to parts of the game, whether it be high-level raiding, PVP or otherwise destroys people the ability to be gatekeepers to people they might already hate due to societal structures. There’s still ways of keeping women out of your raid team that don’t rely on thinking they cybered or automatically assuming they are terrible players. One of those ways is still being abjectly hostile to women, making your raid team a place where no women want to be on a regular basis. But overall, raising the curtain on epic gear acquisition and letting people climb onto the escalator easier has done mostly good things. It means no one looks askance at you if you are decked in any ilevel of purples and merit dictates that only really decent players obtain the highest level of them. Gear still is a method of devaluing people but it doesn’t seem as specifically gendered anymore.

Is misogyny really dead in World of Warcraft? Absolutely not. Has it gotten better? Yes, I believe it has. The fact that the stories I heard in Vanilla and Burning Crusade have all but died out gives me at least a little hope.

14 Responses

  1. Why was it easy to believe though?
    Was it easy to believe? When I heard it back then if was frequently a comment made in jest in alliance raids. Of course the girl with mind-blowing dps cybered for her purples. It couldn’t possibly of been skill that puts her top of the dps on every fight. Her bf was probably telling her what to do, in fact it was probably her bf playing because there are no girls on the internet (with increasingly unplausable comments being added).
    I remember it being by strangers as an attack on a person and we had some occational new joiners express surprise that well played person was being controlled by a girl, but I think anyone seeing the being put in to gear and learn fights was quickly disuaded of that opinion.

    Personally I think it was a quick no-thought answer attacking the obvious to belittle another person and make the speaker feel better than themselves (It is also a bit of wish fulfilment. Maybe the girl is so desperate for gear she’ll cyber for the insulter if they give her stuff).. Other character is played by a girl and well geared? They must of cybered for it. Player got lots of money/rare drop/raid progression. Must be a no-lifer/multi-boxer. Player wins at PvP, must be using hacks.

    Coincidentally, I chanced upon this today! http://www.theonion.com/articles/housewife-charged-in-sexforsecurity-scam,1773/

    • I believe that it was easy to believe because even if it was a joke, it spoke of the low value of women. Hence why even if they really didn’t believe it, it still was a funny “joke.”

    • You know, I don’t know how easy it was to believe it personally, but as a newcomer to WoW in Wrath (even with the new system implemented), it was easy to believe that it was the way a lot of people perceived women raiders. I’m not sure how I came to that conclusion (probably from off-hand comments on blogs I read and on trade/general chat), but I distinctly remember making it a point to refuse any free stuff from male members of our guild lest I be thought of in that way.

  2. In all my years of playing WoW I only know of *one* instance of someone getting gear for sex and that was in Vanilla. And it wasn’t cybering, it was actual real life sex. The GM’s wife was having an affair, irl, with the raid leader, and the loot distribution was “loot council” from the three of them. The thing was, she didn’t start raiding until people were already fairly geared, and so she was pretty far behind, but everyone knew she was going to be raiding every single raid, so they didn’t complain too much. After all, if they were going to be forced to bring her, they might as well have her be a useful member of the team.

    The realization that she was effectively sleeping with BOTH of the other people who determined the gear drops wasn’t found out until the wife got pregnant and all of it came to light.

    Though, to be perfectly fair, she didn’t trade sex for epics, she was sexing the guys and getting epics as a side result.

    Since then I notice the “new” version of this is having to carry the GM or Raid Leader’s wife. And that is so bad, in my current guild, our GM’s wife works 3 times harder than anyone else to be badass just so they can’t say that of her.

    • Yeah, it’s sad that we still have to contend with new versions of women being remarkably bad players versus there just being bad players all over? The idea that it’s always the GM’s wife versus the GM himself (or that the woman is the GM!) is bizarre.

      • It always seems to be blamed on someone’s wife, and I think that perception comes from the belief that she is bad because she doesn’t *actually* want to be playing the game.

        • Yeah, the myth that women only get into video games because of their spouses getting them into it to “get them off their back” etc.

  3. I’ve been in situations with a guild leader who was known for flirting with/chasing after/promoting new female raiders. I found myself scrutinizing every time they won something in raid and resenting them, instead of taking the dude in charge to task for playing favorites, something I really regret. I don’t really see this anymore due to change of guild but it is nice to think overall attitudes in game are changing too.

    • Yeah, it’s hard climbing out from underneath that kind of thinking. I did it too. IT wasn’t until I started to get really into feminism that my attitude towards women and men in-game changed. I’m glad you got into a better situation.

  4. Way back in BC, my guild had a “girl” join us. They didn’t stay long, as apparently this “girl” was hoping to just be handed loot for being female. The problem they encountered was that our guild couldn’t care less about gender, as most of the guild was composed of married couples. This “girl” quit our guild pretty quickly.

    Hilariously, a few months after their brief tenure in my guild, they wrote an epic forum note about how “she” wasn’t a “girl” but a G.I.R.L. and that they had joined several guilds looking for loot simply by claiming to be female. They had success in one or two guilds, but most guilds on the server didn’t function like that and used a DKP system.

    • Your comment made me think of similar instances, so I am replying here. There does seem to be a weird belief that being a woman will get you free stuff, which is funny because every time I have been in a guild, said I was a woman, I have been scoffed at and accused of this. I try to explain it with, no, I’d just rather you guys NOT talk about women in terrible ways in guild chat. Of course, no one *believed* I was a woman. Finally, about 6 months later, I got on vent the first time, and everyone was stunned, I actually was a woman. On a side note, I have never gotten anything for free or even discounted in the game because I am a woman, which is kinda a bummer for me, lol.

      Finally, I was in a guild for a very short time, and mentioned I was a woman, because the gm’s wife was in the guild and I thought it would be a safe place. Turns out, she was an “evil queen” in the fact that she had to be the most loved and adored and no one was allowed to take attention away from her. But because I was *always* on, I made friends fairly quickly and we would usually already be in dungeons by the time she logged on. I got booted for “causing too much drama in guild chat” despite never once causing any drama. :P

  5. But since when has intolerance ever been logical?

    It hasn’t. It has always been based upon fear, ignorance, or the desire to exert power. Many, and I will avoid using the stereotypical “most”, males have one or more of the above afflictions when it comes to controlling/feeling controlled. Societies have drilled into men that they are to be the ones in control, be the providers, occupy the most prominent positions; and, by virtue of all, deserve the most toys befitting their station. This has carried over into games, with guys believing that they should naturally deserve the most stuff because they are the largest population that supports the gamebase. I will not even go into the fallacy that is that argument, but leave it for the statement it is.

    As the number of women in gaming continues to grow, any pretense of validity that these arguments many once have inspired will continue to wane. What will eventually destroy them will be more women topping the damage meters, more women successfully healing high-level raids, more women seen as high-quality tanks (boy do I need to improve there), and even more all-women raid teams scoring high-profile boss takedowns. Demonstrated competence puts the lie to any false whispers of favoritism or sexual bias. It is only a matter of time before even the most strident of game misogynists will be unable to have their tiny voices heard over the roar of successful women gamers. Vive le revolution.

  6. “This was also the reason I often heard stated for why guilds would explicitly allow no women to join”

    I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of this before. Was this prevalent? I have joined a guild before that asked in the application form whether you were male or female, but it wasn’t a barrier for joining.

    @Marylee: I just wonder why I have to prove my competence when clearly so many men are incompetent players.

  7. I saw something like this happen before in BC. My husband joined a hardcore guild right around Sunwell, and it was a competitive atmosphere to earn your raid spot, decided by the class leader. His class leader was a young man, and at first he was doing fine. Then another warlock joined, and she started bribing the class leader with Sunmotes to get into the raid. I don’t remember if her dps was equal or not, but my husband was very upset at the class leader for being bribable and losing his spot through no fault of his own. Unfortunately, the guild leader let it be, because he allowed each class leader to decide things their own way. I don’t know if she offered to cyber or not, but the way she presented herself on vent made me thing she wouldn’t be above it.
    I’ve only seen that one instance in all my time in game. I earned my spot fairly in all my guilds, and in ithers guilds where we raided with women they earned their spots through their own abilities. I haven’t heard anyone even joke about it since maybe Wrath. I am hopeful that the culture is changing, but there is still some room for improvement.

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